FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Iowa

First Impressions, IndyCar — By on June 24, 2012 10:49 am
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STEPH’S IMPRESSIONS:

Well, I suppose these aren’t first impressions per se  — the delay rendered last night’s schedule positively Motegi-like, and so the moment the checkered flag dropped, so did I.

Having had the opportunity to sleep on it, my feelings about the race are still very positive. There were plenty of passes, plenty of surprises, and plenty of interesting developments in the points race when it was all said and done. Heck, it was clear from the moment the polesitter blew an engine before the green flag fell that it was going to be an interesting night!

Of course, it was good fortune that the race went off last night at all given the weather, so complaining about the adjusted schedule isn’t very fair. I just worry about how many people actually stuck around to watch. It should be very interesting to look at the overnight and final ratings to see how many people fire up the DVRs.

If they do, they’re in for a treat — Dario’s visit to the NBCSN booth made for even better insight than usual, and the side-by-side of battles for position toward the end of the race was completely epic!

Plus, there were those ferocious drives from Tony Kanaan (completely expected), Simon Pagenaud (much more surprising– and he gained more positions overall than TK, which is basically unheard of), and JR Hildebrand (notable even though his ended in the wall).

A lot of people are going to be ready to declare the resurgence of Andretti Autosport now that Ryan Hunter-Reay has taken his second win in a row. I’m not so sure yet. Yes, Penske and Ganassi have been less dominant than usual lately and Will Power’s lead in the points has completely disappeared. But we’re now headed into the portion of the schedule where Power should show the strongest. I’m not quite ready to throw confetti for AA just yet. Let’s check that Power doesn’t win the next five races in a row first.

The only thing there really was to be disappointed about last night — unless your favorite driver didn’t manage to make it through the melee, of course — was that the race ended under yellow because of a solo wall tag by a backmarker. This race deserved better. But I’m certainly not asking for a green-white-checkered situation. It was a minor letdown after a majorly exciting race, but that’s just how racing goes sometimes. I’m sure Ryan Hunter-Reay isn’t complaining.

In short, Iowa never fails to impress. This one is very high on my list to attend in person as soon as possible.

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PAUL’S IMPRESSIONS:

Once again, Iowa Speedway proved that it might be the track most suited for Indy cars on the entire schedule.  Fantastic racing and an enthusiastic crowd made this event a winner for the sixth year in a row.

The event was one of the most unusual in recent (or distant) memory.  After a short delay of about 40 minutes, the parade laps didn’t even go smoothly.  When was the last time an engine blew on a warm-up lap, much less the polesitter’s?  I honestly don’t remember that ever happening.

After Franchitti’s engine expired, Alex Tagliani spun on the parade lap, and the start was waved off after at least two abysmal attempts, the lap counter started before the green flag ever flew.  It was a very anticlimatic start to the race that left many in my section of the grandstands completely confused as to what was really happening.

Once the race finally got underway, the racing was fantastic throughout the field.  Within about 15 laps, the field was spaced out to where there was action covering the entire 7/8-mile track.  The crowd in my area was buzzing the entire time.

In my opinion, the biggest disappointment of the evening was the crash of James Hinchcliffe on a lap 195 restart.  After Will Power took himself and EJ Viso out early in the race, Hinch had a chance to massively narrow his deficit to Power in the points championship.  He didn’t even have to win the race — he just had to finish!  I’m sure this will be a topic on this week’s MFW podcast, but it was disappointing to see an old gremlin rear its ugly head again.

Outside the fence, I got to attend the event with my family and enjoy Jackson’s first INDYCAR race.  The enjoyment of watching a four-year-old take in all the sights and sounds of an INDYCAR event is something everyone should experience!  The Fan Zone experience was phenomenal for him as he got to see some cars up close and enjoy the interactive displays.  We didn’t stand in the massive line for the autograph session, but it was good enough for Jackson to lay eyes upon his favorite drivers: Will Power, Ed Carpenter, and Tony Kanaan.

What wasn’t cool was the thunderstorm fans had to endure that left us stranded on the infield with few places to go.  Many fans were in the area of the Fan Walk, but when the skies opened up and Speedway officials cleared the grandstands, those that did not have access to the garages had nowhere to turn.  The tractor trams stopped running without notice as well, so the only choice was to seek shelter or walk to the exterior of the track via the turn 1 tunnel.  Neither option was good.  Luckily, we (along with about 30 other people) were able to squeeze under a small 10’x10’ pop-up tent and stay somewhat dry.  There were probably another 50 fans near us that weren’t so lucky.  Track officials finally let some people into the covered garage area, but it was already too late by that point.

A huge shoutout goes to Nicole Briscoe, who graciously offered her car to our family so we were able to avoid the second massive storm that came through.  Without her help, Jackson’s first INDYCAR race likely would not have been as much fun.  Plus, he thought it was really cool to be hanging out in a driver’s car!

Overall, the Iowa Corn 250 was another incredible event.  If any INDYCAR fan has yet to experience this race, do it soon.  It is truly one of the best events on the entire schedule.

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